“Not yet.” This phrase may sum up much of narrative of Ezra. The Israelites had been in captivity, but it was “not yet” their end. God had opened the way to return to the land, but they had “not yet” all gone back. The temple foundation was laid, but the people said the time to finish building was “not yet.”
When we arrive in chapter 9, we already see fulfillment: the people are back, the temple is built, and Ezra himself is here to teach the word. But have they, as a culture, completely turned back to their God? Well . . . not yet.
The very first thing we see Ezra using the law of the Lord for is to expose the sinfulness of the people. It did not matter that the formalities of the temple sacrifices were back in effect or that the priesthood had returned; formalities aside, the people’s hearts were not turned to God. They had been impure, doing exactly what God told them not to do, that is, intermarry with the pagan peoples (verses 1-2).
This account is a stark reminder of our reality. Though we too have been brought out of the darkness of captivity, our full redemption is “not yet.” While we are in this life, we must confront our own faithlessness with the truth of God’s word, so that we may repent of our sins and become more like the Image that we – one day, but not yet – will be just like!